A Scathing Review of Dexpot and Conduit Search

Ok, I’m grumpy enough that I had to switch to Windows from a Mac for my new job. Beyond great hardware, I am missing the Spaces feature that gives you multiple desktops to clear up the clutter. Enter Dexpot (and it’s accompanying Trojan Conduit Search).

I learned about Dexpot from this LifeHacker post and decided to give it a quick try… well, it would have been quick if their installer did not come with a crazy annoying, irremovable toolbar that invades all of your browsers and puts flashing adds on your home page (welcome back to Windows, right!?). This type of thing is to be expected if you are installing a bunch of random free software, but I selected to download a 30-day free trial of the business version of this software! Not only that, but there was a free version that I could have selected without any verification that I was not using it on a company PC! … oh thats cause it comes with a Trojan.

I’ve spent the last 45 minutes trying to remove this junk and had to start using my Mac to find instructions on how to do it, because the Trojan is redirecting me away from relevant sites.

Come on Dexpot! Completely unacceptable!

Update – 10:15pm same night

Looks like you have to remove it from Add/Remove Programs and from each browser. This page has instructions for IE (just doing a factory reset on it… I didn’t have any bookmarks or anything in IE).

WIth the help of this post in Google’s forums, I think I have Chrome fixed. It did not show up in my Extensions, but it did in the other two places:

For google chrome browser–

1. Go to Settings >> Extensions >> disable uTorrentControl_v2 extension.

 
2. Go to Settings >> On startup >> remove conduit settings
 
3. Go to Settings >>  Search >> manage search engine >> set it to google.com and remove conduit’s entry if any.

I sign into Chrome with my Google Account, which means it syncs my settings. Conduits stuff had already shown up in Chrome on my Mac. I removed it there also for good measure.

Update – The next day…

The toolbar is back in Chrome! I am uninstalling and reinstalling Chrome. Guessing this will be a temporary fix again.

 

 Update – An hour later

Yep. It’s back. This is insane. Go back to the page I linked before for IE and be sure to run steps 3 & 4 in addition to the Add/Remove Programs and browser steps. Turns out those aren’t there just for good measure. My registry had a ton of stuff in it.

Also, be sure not to use CNET Downloader to get the AdwCleaner tool. They install their own malware! I am really frustrated with Windows, only have been off of a Mac for about 2 weeks.

App Development in 2013 – Is BlackBerry 10 Worth the Risk?

2012 was a slow year for me as a developer. This is primarily because any app development I do comes after my family and my day job, both of which required some extra attention over the past year. We were blessed with the arrival of our new baby girl, a move from Austin, Texas to Menlo Park, CA in May, and a new role at work. I also attempted a less than successful transition from webOS to iOS development, which killed my excitement for building apps at the time.

I find myself itching to get back in the game for 2013.

A Little Luck in the Past – webOS

Back in the heyday of webOS I won two $10k prizes in the Palm Hot Apps contests, which is ridiculous. I say this, because my two apps were Emoticons Free and Fart Bomb!. I placed in the first Hot Apps contest by accident when I created Emoticons Free. I just got lucky as it turns out people love emoticons. The next time around was deliberate when Palm created a second “PDK” contest for apps built on their C++ framework instead of JavaScript. Initially, I was not going to spend the time learning a second framework targeted at hardware accelerated graphics and other complex apps… until I saw that there we not enough entries to fill out the top 25 spots. So, I decided to make something people would download (you won based on downloads)… a free fart app, bingo… but I don’t know how to do graphics… ok, just play a fart noise after 30 seconds and call it Fart Bomb! I placed in the top 10 again, winning another $10k.

In addition to the Hot Apps contests, I was making ~$1k each month on webOS apps for about a year. Today, the nearly dead platform has a similar revenue stream, yielding only a hundred bucks or so every few months.

No So Lucking Moving to iOS with Appcelerator

When it was clear that webOS was on the way out, I started looking into making the transition to iOS development. This would require learning Objective C and a new framework. I really just wanted to get something simple out quickly, so I landed on Appcelerator. This freemium tool enables you to create “native” iOS apps with JavaScript (same language I had been using on webOS). Pretty cool. After some experimenting, I had the idea to create Phone Addict.

Thinking it was extremely clever and certain it would succeed, I spent several weeks developing it and getting it just right for this untapped market. A market from which I extracted less than $100 before making the app free. This is when I realized that many of my apps on webOS got traction, simply because they showed up in the “What’s New” feed for a couple days and the ~2 million Palm Pre owners happened to frequent that section in the app catalog. On iOS, you have thousands of new apps each day. You are immediately buried in a sea of nearly a million apps.

So, I quit. My $99 iOS Developer Membership expired and I decided not to renew it.

Is BlackBerry 10 the next webOS?

For 2013, I have a few options

  1. Learn how to market iOS apps and compete in that bloody ocean. Maybe learn Objective C.
  2. Take a chance that RIM will provide a platform with enough users and few developers/apps
  3. Develop for Android… for some reason this option is not attractive to me

A quick peak at developer.blackberry.com makes it look like I could leverage some existing, but rusty, C/C++ skills or web dev tools. Learning the tool chain and their API framework would be the heavy lifting of course.

By “the next webOS”, I mean will there be so few apps that creating a hit will be worth the time sink in a possibly dead platform?

Ramping up on a new platform is a pain, but spending time developing apps that no one ever finds is not so stellar either. Not sure what I will do yet. What do you think?

On a related note, here is an entertaining graphic about the downfall of RIM that someone shared with me (click the image for the source).

Created by: www.MBAOnline.com

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iCloud, iPhoto, and CrashPlan – My iPhone Backup Strategy

The iPhone 4S was my first iPhone. It was also my first experience wading through the definitions, differences and tradeoffs between iCloud backups, iTunes backups, syncing with iTunes, syncing with iCloud, Wi-Fi synching, backing up photos and video to iPhoto, and iTunes Home Sharing.

Initially, I thought I would be able to simply turn on iCloud backups and never think about it again. It turns out it is not that simple, unless you want to pay for more space.

I’ve explained a hybrid approach I am now using to backup my data to a few friends and coworkers, so I figured I’d share it in a post to see what others are doing. A lot of this is probably common knowledge for many iPhone users, but required some reading and experimenting to get up to speed. Hopefully, I can save a few iOS newbies some time and confusion.

Here is the executive summary of my current, free backup strategy that minimizes how often I have to plug my iPhone into my MacBook:

  • iCloud backs up everything except my Photo Roll
  • Photo Stream is On
  • Monthly, I plug my iPhone into my MacBook to save my pictures and videos to iPhoto
  • Wi-Fi Sync is enabled (to backup any on-device movie purchases to a computer)
  • For long term backup of my photos and videos, I backup my entire user directory on my MacBook with CrashPlan

Apple could simplify the process above by allowing your Camera Roll to sync to your computer over Wi-Fi or by including videos you capture in your Photo Stream (less likely).

Read on to understand some of my reasoning for ending up with this backup approach. I will be assuming you are using iOS 5.

Definition of Terms

The focus of this post is on backing up your device and all the content on it, which requires a quick definition of terms – the first hurdle to understanding your data management options with iOS.

Backup this is exactly what it sounds like. You are backing up your device, so that you can restore it if you lose it. You can save your backups on your computer with iTunes or on the web with iCloud (or both if you really want to). Some media does not get backed up, like media that was synced to your device from a computer and not purchased on the device (in theory you would restore that from the computer again if you lost your device). Movies you buy and download on an iOS device are also not backed up. Make sure you sync those to a computer for long-term storage.

Syncing with iTunes this is a little confusing. Synching “backs up” some stuff in a way, but is mainly focused on synchronizing content between your computer and iOS device. Things like your devices settings, and email accounts are not “synced” – you have to backup to save that info. If you buy media from iTunes on your phone, it will get sent to your computer. If you buy media on your computer, it will get sent to your phone. One pain point is that syncing does not backup your devices’ photos or videos that you have captured with the device. You need to use iPhoto for that (or something else if you are on a PC). Photo Stream halfway helps with this…

Wi-Fi Syncing – same as syncing with iTunes, except you don’t have to plug your device into your computer. Once you set it up, it just happens magically when your iOS device and computer are on the same wireless network, iTunes is open, and your device is plugged into power.

iTunes Home Sharing – enables you to stream iTunes content from your computer to your iOS devices when they are on the same network. Home Sharing does not permanently sync or backup anything. It just gives you the ability to share content by streaming it to devices or between computers. All devices and computers must be using the same Apple ID.

Photo Stream – is a collection of the last 1000 photos you have taken that are stored online in your iCloud account (although you can’t view them online) and pushed down to all your devices and computers. Photos will automatically upload from your iOS device to your Photo Stream when you are on a Wi-Fi network. It is important to note that Photo Stream does not apply to videos you capture with your device.

 iCloud – Think of iCloud as a place on the web where you can wirelessly backup your devices, use to automatically share photos between your devices (Photo Stream), and use to wirelessly “sync” your content between your devices via the web. Also, unrelated to backing up your data, iCloud gives you web based email (yourname@me.com), calendar, and contacts – this is exactly like Gmail, Google Calendar, etc. For backups, you get 5GB of storage for free. Your purchased music, apps, books, and TV shows, as well as your Photo Stream, don’t count against your free storage.

Cutting the Cable… Almost.

I’m a Sprint guy (note about this at then end), so for the few years prior to my iPhone 4S, I was a webOS user and developer. While webOS lacked solid hardware and momentum to catch up with iOS or Android, it was ahead of the game (at the time) when it comes to backing up your data and managing your contacts. When you setup a new webOS phone, you create a Palm Profile. The device then backs itself up everyday to the web. If you lose your phone, you simply log into your profile on the new device and your apps, contacts, and device settings start getting restored to your new device.

Fortunately, iCloud came to iOS when the iPhone launched on Sprint, allowing me to continue this use model, freeing me from backing up to my computer completely… for a while. After a few months of using my iPhone with iCloud as my backup method, I started seeing an error message every morning – something like “Failed to backup to iCloud. Not enough space available. Purchase more space in Settings.”

“How the heck have I used up my 5GB?”, was my first thought. Remember, your purchased music, apps, books, and TV shows (anything Apple is storing on a server somewhere anyway), as well as your Photo Stream, don’t count against your free storage… that sounds like everything, so what is taking up so much space? I tapped my way into Settings > iCloud > Storage & Backup > Manage Storage > This iPhone to find out.

Disable specific backups in the iCloud Settings

Videos. Beautiful, crisp, 1080p, full HD videos. Since videos are not included in your Photo Stream, they do count against your free 5GB of storage when your Camera Roll gets backed up to iCloud. I have an 18-month-old son that is quite entertaining, so I have a ton of videos on my iPhone. As you can see in the screenshot above, my Camera Roll was up to 8.2GB, which was causing my iCloud backups to fail. By turning Camera Roll off, I could my get backup down to only 450MB.

So, I am out of space, I don’t want to delete any videos, and I want to keep them backed up. That leaves me with a few options

  1. Buy more iCloud space
  2. Turn off the Camera Roll backup in the iCloud settings and periodically save my photos and videos to iPhoto (requires a cable)
  3. Bail on iCloud and use iTunes to do a cabled backup periodically

After a little thinking, I decided to go with #2 over #3 (#1 didn’t really have a chance).

iCloud & iPhoto – The Hybrid Approach

When deciding between approaches #2 and #3 above, there are a couple conundrums.

Consider going with #2 – if you are going to periodically cable your iOS device to your computer to save your Camera Roll to iPhoto, why not also do a full backup to iTunes and forget about iCloud backups all together?

Now consider going with #3 – when you do a cabled backup to iTunes, your Camera Roll is not imported into iPhoto. It is backed up somewhere on your computer, so that it could be restored to your iOS device, but you can’t view it anywhere.

Ok, so let’s step back. What do I think I want?

  • Frequent backups of my iPhone (apps, settings, contacts, etc.)
  • Backups of my Camera Roll
  • The ability to view my Camera Roll on my MacBook

The best way to accomplish this is to go with #2. By turning off my Camera Roll backup in the iCloud settings, my iPhone is able to back itself up every night if it is connected to Wi-Fi and a power source. Then, using the Reminders app, I have a monthly reminder set to import all my photos and videos to iPhoto. I also keep Photo Stream turned on as a way to keep my photos “backed up” between iPhoto saving sessions.

Worst-case scenario, I lose my iPhone right before saving my videos to iPhoto one month. Using this backup approach, the videos from the last month should be the only thing I can’t recover.

Backing Up the Backup

My parents have photo album after photo album of pictures from all phases of our lives growing up. Short of a house fire, these albums will last a lifetime. Digital media has countless benefits over physical photos, but it is definitely easier to lose. I’ve had most of my photos and videos on my MacBook for a couple years now and have been one harddrive crash away from losing it.

Backing up to external drives is good, but what if that drive crashes? Over 20 or 30 years, I don’t want to take the chance with two harddrives… although I guess there will be new, more reliable storage media over that timeframe 🙂 Anyway, for now, enter CrashPlan.

CrashPlan installs a service on your computer that incrementally backs up unlimited data to the cloud for $5 per month. I am currently backing up my entire user directory (~120GB), which includes my iPhoto library and a ton of other stuff.

Recap

While iCloud greatly simplifies the whole backup process, 5GB goes quick if you are shooting a lot of video. Apple gives users an easy option to buy more space (of course), but with a little effort you can keep your device backups current, with the exception of captured video.

Here are a few ways Apple could help its users out:

  1. Include videos in your Photo Stream
  2. Instead of 5GB, give users as much iCloud storage as their devices’ internal storage (if you have a 16GB iPhone, you could get 16GB of iCloud storage)
  3. Allow your Camera Roll to sync to iPhoto over Wi-Fi

How do you back up your iOS devices? Let us know in the comments.


Lastly, the note about Sprint – It’s a bargin. We pay $47 per person (taxes and fees included) for effectively unlimited iPhone use. Find five people, including yourself, that want to start a Friends & Family Plan and sign up for the $129 plan that gives you 1500 Anytime Minutes. These minutes only get used if you are roaming or calling a landline. Calls to other cellphones don’t use minutes. You also have unlimited data and messaging. Split the bill.

Phone Addict for iPhone

appicon

Phone Addict

Do you impulsively check your phone for new emails, tweets, FB posts, news articles and a myriad of other information, even when you do not want to be on your phone? We all do. We are a generation of short attention span, information craving beings always looking for quick gratification.

Hence my inspiration for Phone Addict. It is time to retrain your brain!

Phone Addict is a game that retrains you to use your phone only when you need it, rather than impulsively checking it when you don’t. The concept is simple, you are rewarded when you are not using your phone. The app consists of 11 levels of difficulty, which must be conquered to become a Phone Addict Master.

You can post your scores to Facebook from within the app to compete with your addicted peers.

main menu Phone Addict for iPhone

When you first install the app, you must begin racking up 24 hours of idle time to unlock the first Challenge. You do this by simply starting the Free Running Timer  and then locking your phone. As long as you don’t exit Phone Addict, you will earn a point every 6 minutes (10 points per hour). While the timer is running, you can see how many points you have earned for staying off of your phone and how long you have to go until you earn another point.

active timer See how much you’ve earned and how long you have to go

Once you earn your first 240 points (24 hours of idle time), then you unlock the first Challenge and the real training begins. When you start a Challenge you are betting that you can go the full duration of the Challenge without using your phone. If you succeed, then you get the points. If you fail, then the points are deducted from your score. Once you complete a Challenge, the next Challenge is unlocked. Each successive Challenge is worth exponentially more points.

The ten Challenges range from 30 minutes worth 50 points all the way up to 48 hours of uninterrupted idleness worth 500,000 points at which point you become a Phone Addict Master.

Your Challenge Level, Total Score, and Daily Average point value are all tracked by Phone Addict and can be posted to Facebook at anytime to show your friends where you stand.

Even in my testing of the app, I find myself not wanting to get on my phone if I am in the middle of a Challenge. Therefore, it works! 🙂

With any luck, Phone Addict will be live by the end of this week and I’ll post a link.

[UPDATE] – We’re live! See the link at the top of this post.

Baby Care Sleep Tracking

Not using Baby Care on your Palm Pre or Pixi? Check out our one week trial.

We have quite a few users asking for sleep tracking for our Baby Care app. Since people are asking for it, I would like to add it in the a future update, but would like to hear your thoughts on how it should work.

Would you want it to work similar to the feeding timer? This would give you the ability to:

  1. Select “Start nap” or “Stop nap” whenever your baby wakes up or goes to sleep. Baby Care could then track the total sleep time and number of naps throughout the day.
  2. You could also “tweak” the nap time once the timer is done in case you had to change baby before getting to your phone
  3. You could also enter nap times manually after they happen.

Is total nap time and number of naps today all you would be interested in tracking? Would you want to track anything over multiple days?

Leave your thoughts below and thanks for using Baby Care!

Slide Show | The Homebrew Version

The homebrew version of Slide Show allows you to view slide shows of the photos you have saved on your webOS device. We had to make it a homebrew version because Palm has not made the APIs public that are required for this application. Once they are, we will push this version out to the official App Catalog.

What is Homebrew?

Homebrew is the term used to refer to hundreds of apps available for webOS that aren’t in the official App Catalog. You can learn more at precentral.net


Let me have it!

In order to obtain the homebrew version of Slide Show, you must first either:

  • Purchase Slide Show from the App Catalog and leave a review with your username (this allows us to see that you purchased it)
  • Or, you can pay us directly by sending 2.00 USD to clearwaterapps@gmail.com via paypal

Then, shoot an email to us at clearwaterapps@gmail.com requesting the .ipk file which can be installed via webOS Quick Install.

Baby Care

Easily track, review, and make notes on your baby’s feedings and diapers. Use the customized timer to track your breast feeding time on both the left and right sides or manually enter the time after feeding. Log bottle feedings by the ounce or mL, solid food by the ounce, and optionally add notes to any feeding. Wet and soiled diapers can be logged individually, so you can make sure your baby’s body is working correctly. All events are saved to the history, so you can easily access them at the pediatrician or just to examize your baby’s habits. This app is for new parents, by a new parent. Within a week of bringing our new baby home, I began developing this app to track feedings and diapers, after having to log the first week on the paper the hospital sent us home with. Now we use our app! 🙂 If you have questions about Baby Care, please follow the link to our website and feel free to leave any feature requests in your review. Enjoy!

Discuss below or view in the App Catalog.

Also check out the Baby Care Trial.